July 15, 2013

Daughters Who Walk This Path by Yejide Kilanko | Book Review

Daughters Who Walk This Path is a tale of abuse. Sexual abuse. Morayo Ajayi and her little sister Eniayo have their challenges - Morayo is knock-kneed and Eniayo is an albino - but they are quite content. Their dad travels often because of his job but he makes time for them when he's around. Their mom is always there, dividing time between them and her tailoring business. Misplaced trust results in Morayo being taken advantage of repeatedly and in its aftermath she suffocates from the shame. Plagued by the resulting confusion she turns to Aunt Morenike to whom all of this is sorely familiar. It is Aunt Morenike who tries to help Morayo navigate the myriads of confusing feelings she is forced to deal with as she tries valiantly to move on with life.

This book did not pique my interest in its beginning pages. I actually picked it up and put it back down a couple of times until I finally settled into it. Yejide begins her tale with the saccharine sweet relationship between these two sisters, and then she dips you into darkness from which there is no immediate escape. She handles this material very well and shines a light into sexual abuse in the home. Daughters Who Walk This Path is a good novel. Kudos to Yejide Kilanko.

[Image via Aobibliosphere ]

July 08, 2013

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo | Book Review

Darling, Bastard, Godknows, Stina, Chipo and Sbho are Zimbabwean kids who roam the streets daily in constant exploration of their surroundings. The Zimbabwe they live in is a broken down mess. Schools are not in session because teachers are on a strike; their parents are constantly in search of employment, something, anything, that will put food on the table. After being run off their properties by the government, they and many other families settle in shanties at a location known as "Paradise", a place they hope to abandon as soon as the country gets better. AIDS ravages them even as "the white man" and other foreigners plunder them. In all they are at the mercy of NGOs who bring them much needed aid in exchange for their dignity. Darling is the protagonist who wittily narrates it as she sees it. She is one of the privileged ones who get to leave Zimbabwe for America to pursue unfulfilled dreams but America comes with a different set of problems that Darling has to learn to deal with.

We Need New Names is superbly entertaining. I wasn't even that far in when I began considering re-reading it so I could savor it all again. I dragged out my reading in a ridiculous attempt to postpone the inevitable. It was so good from the start that I worried it would lose steam but Bulawayo delivers right to the very end. I'm a big fan of NoViolet Bulawayo. We Need New Names is a remarkable debut novel, a standout. Do not borrow this book. BUY it.

[Image via Goodreads]

July 03, 2013

Burma Boy by Biyi Bandele | Book Review

In Burma Boy, Banana, a former apprentice of a local blacksmith, has lied about his age to get into the army. The platoon he joined rejects him after he convalesces from a bout of chickenpox because they are scared that he's still infectious. He joins the "Chindits", a "rapid-reaction group" created by the very eccentric Major Wingate. Chindits are "trained to operate deep behind Japanese lines" in order to undermine Japanese efforts in Burma. Regardless of his eagerness to be put to better use Banana is just a child. A little boy who joins the Chindits on their grueling journey towards the enemy.

Burma Boy is not captivating. It lacks energy. A tale about a child soldier should be many things that this tale is not. I felt no emotions. Nothing. I just kept flipping pages. In someone else's hands the last 6 pages would have ripped me open but I remained unmoved. Burma Boy is like Coca-Cola without the gas and the sugar. For a tale with so much potential I am not at all impressed.

[Image via Kalahari]